Co.Create

How Honda Turned a Car Into A Mixing Deck

I’ve got two turntables and a Honda Fit.

With each new model year carmakers roll out vehicles with slicker designs, better fuel economy, and higher-tech features, all in an effort to entice consumers to choose their particular configuration of steel, gears, and rubber. But for some it takes more than the promise of sweet speakers and killer fuel injection to connect with a car. They’d prefer to see it transformed into full-fledged mixing deck.

Honda did just that with its Drivemixer project to launch the Fit Twist to the Brazilian market. By hacking the vehicle, all of its features and functions were turned into musical outputs that were then "played" by N.A.S.A (also of Squeak E. Clean, aka Sam Spiegel, and Brazilian DJ Zegon, aka Ze Gonzales).

Needing to connect with young, urban consumers, agency F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi focused on current cultural shifts within the country when creating the Honda Drivemixer.

“Through market research, we came to understand that Brazil’s new generation of consumers is more independent, both economically and socially, more educated and thus, more willing to make his/her own purchase decisions that’ll reflect their own unique personality. For a patriarchal society, this is nothing short of a small, quiet revolution,” says account planning director Dorian Dack. “To credibly position the product as a car that reflects this new generation and what it stands for, we knew we had to be authentic and credible in both our message and delivery. We knew we couldn’t just piggyback any sort of cultural fad and call it ours… we had to go out and risk doing something genuinely surprising, something bold. We went out on a limb. We came up with a fresh idea that expresses both what the car and its consumer stands for.”

Agency creatives Isabelle de Vooght, Isaac Serruya and Roberta Harada say that once boldness was they key element, they started thinking "how cool would it be if the car was…?" “That’s when we decided to give it a twist: We wanted to turn it into a fully functioning operable DJ mixer."

They started meeting with musicians, tech experts, sound designers, and producers, and a specific microcontroller board was developed in order to transform the car’s signals into MIDI notes, meaning most of its features gained musical functions.

Sam Speigel and Zegon were brought in to compose an original track that would be performed on the car. “The track was composed with the car in mind, but we made the music first and figured out how to control it after,” says Spiegel. “Using Ableton Live we got into the wiring and computer chips of the car. We used the on/off switches in there to turn them into MIDI switches. Then rewiring that using Ableton Live with the sampler playback we were able to turn those into triggers for our sounds. It was amazing.”

The final musical element was also the biggest: a giant turntable that triggers a sound when the car drives. “We wanted two… but that was too crazy,” says Spiegel, I mean… who wouldn’t want a giant turntable that your car can turn?

With the car wired up and set atop the largest turntable you’ve ever seen, Spiegel and Zegon had the tricky task of actually performing the track they’d composed. The colorful sticky notes served that as indicators make the process look complicated but Spiegel says it wasn’t. “We had to learn how to play the car [as an instrument] but elements were split up so well that it was easier to play than it looked.”

Keeping true to the remixing concept, Honda released the track, “Overdrive,” to the 10 best Brazilian music and entertainment blogs, inviting them to submit a remix of the track. The remixes were the compiled into a widget so the audience could vote on their favorite one. The winner, music blog My Cool, was awarded professional DJ equipment. Check the winning remix here:

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